White Castle: 1920s through World War II

This is the first in a series of posts about the history of White Castle restaurants. Check in on Friday, January 30 to read more about White Castle from 1950s to the present.

In the words of Billy Ingram, one of the company founders, the history of White Castle is:

Edgar W. "Billy" Ingram, Sr.

Edgar W. “Billy” Ingram, Sr.


…more than the story of the growth of an individual Company: it is the story of originating a new kind of business; the story of developing the hamburger sandwich into its modern, tasty form…”

1920s

  • Real estate agent Billy Ingram met cook Walt Anderson
  • Opened first hamburger stand in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas
  • First restaurants had 5 seats at the counter
  • Hamburgers were 5 cents and their coffee was equally popular

Exterior view of Wichita number 1, the first White Castle restaurant opened in Wichita, Kansas

Exterior view of Wichita number 1, the first White Castle restaurant opened in Wichita, Kansas


1930s

  • Introduced newspaper coupons
  • Promoted hamburgers to housewives as nutritious family meals
  • Developed cardboard boxes to keep hamburgers warm
  • Moved corporate headquarters from Wichita to Columbus, Ohio in 1934
Example of the female customers that White Castle advertising campaigns targeted in the 1930s.

Example of the female customers that White Castle advertising campaigns targeted in the 1930s.

1940s

  • Hired women to work in the restaurants for the first time during World War II
  • War time shortages of beef, sugar and other foods posed a challenge
  • Restaurants served things that were not typically on the menu like baked beans, coleslaw, egg sandwiches, hot dogs and for the first time, French fries
  • Price of hamburgers up to 10 cents by 1946
Crowded White Castle in the 1940s.

Crowded White Castle in the 1940s.

The Ohio History Connection Archives/Library has held the White Castle System, Inc. corporate records since 1995. They are available to the public for research in the Archives/Library Research Room, Wednesday through Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM. A selection of photographs and posters from the White Castle records have been digitized. Click here to view the White Castle Digital Collection in our digital library, Ohio Memory.

Lisa Wood, Curator for Visual Resources

Sources of Information:

All This from a 5-cent Hamburger! The Story of the White Castle System by E.W. Ingram, Sr.

Selling ’em by the Sack, White Castle and the Creation of American Food by David Gerard Hogan

By the Sackful, A Scrapbook with Recipes from 85 Years of White Castle Craving edited by Nicki Pendleton Wood for White Castle Management Company

This entry was posted in collections, Digital Projects, Manuscript Collections, Photograph Collections. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to White Castle: 1920s through World War II

  1. V.E.G. says:

    White Castle has been around at the time of Prizma Color!

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